Thinking Yourself To Death

A new piece out at Salon:

Until recently the idea that our beliefs, or our fears, could kill us was not taken seriously in Western medicinal circles, due to the lack of a mechanical explanation for how something as ephemeral as the mind could extinguish something as tangible as the body. Now, thanks to the work of a British psychologist and researcher named John Leach, that may change, as he has mapped out at least one road to this unfortunate end.

More than 20 years ago Leach, who is a survival psychologist, started to investigate why some people lived through their time prison camps, shipwrecks, plane crashes and other disasters, while others did not. He spent years trying to figure out what was special about the survivors.

“I got absolutely nowhere,” Leach said, when reached in the U.K. “I couldn’t find any special characteristics of these people. Then one day, I realized I was asking the wrong question. The real question is not, ‘What makes a few people so extraordinary that they survive?’ The real question is, ‘Why do so many people die when there’s no need for them to die?'” before her 23rd birthday, she did.

Read the rest here.